Associate Professor Mike Burgmeier is not a teaching member of the faculty, but his work as Chair of the General Education Committee at NMU will have a major impact on the content taught in the classrooms at NMU for many years. Burgmeier, who is a Reference and Web Services Librarian, has been a part of the General Education Council for the past three years, and he now chairs the committee responsible for reviewing all courses submitted for the new General Education Program at NMU. “As a librarian, I see and get involved with people from all disciplines,” Burgmeier said. “That’s one of my favorite parts. I see across disciplines,” Burgmeier said. “Not one of them is more important than the next.”
Part of his job is serving as a liaison between departments across campus. “It’s one of the best perks,” Burgmeier said. He enjoys when faculty members come to his desk looking for information and he learns about the research they’re involved in. It excites him to experience all the different subjects. “In hindsight, I kind of wonder if I should have been a general studies major, I love that breadth of knowledge so much,” Burgmeier said.
The new Gen Ed program is designed to modernize the NMU curriculum towards those used by universities across the country. “The emphasis will move from disciplines to cognitive skills,” Burgmeier said. “You can tell right away it’s more about integrative thinking, it was a huge undertaking.” To date, 146 courses have been approved, but Burgmeier says Quantitative Reasoning and Analysis as well as Scientific Inquiry are specific areas where the GEC would like to strengthen the program. Part of the review process requires an assessment plan to describe how a course will meet the outcomes of the program as a whole. “That’s where a lot of people are running into problems,” Burgmeier said.
Work as a librarian also has drawbacks, Burgmeier said. He doesn’t grade or advise students, so those can be shortcomings when it comes to directing the GEC. “That’s one area where having the other faculty members on the council really helps. They know the workload and the issues that are going on with trying to assess these courses,” Burgmeier said.
More than any other project he’s worked on, Burgmeier said he sees the benefit of the GEC. A General Education Program cuts across so many areas that multiple perspectives are a necessity. Even though the process has at times been tedious and a bit slower than he would like, Burgmeier understands the need for thinking long-term. “You have to have patience, it’s a big undertaking and a big change,” Burgmeier said.
No course from the previous liberal studies bulletin was moved to the new curriculum without review. Every course had to apply to be a part of the General Education Program designed by the GEC. There have been 180 course proposals since November, 2014. Roughly 30 are in the review process. “People are revising them based on our feedback,” Burgmeier said.
Like the previous Undergraduate Bulletin, it will be possible for students to use a course for both a major and the General Education Program. The new program will also provide ample opportunities for a student to explore a foreign language. “That whole notion of the global world and diversity were two big things that we consciously tried to build into the program,” Burgmeier said.
One new graduation requirement that will be implemented into the General Education Program is an English and Mathematics competency. Students will still need to pass English 111 and 211, with some exceptions. “For the intermediate course in Effective Communication, any department can submit a course that can count, Burgmeier said. “That same flexibility is built into the math requirement we have now. For example Econ 101 could be submitted to count towards that math comp requirement, it would then go to the math department and they would review it.”
Content is king and the syllabus is considered. If the course is appropriate for the cognitive skills required it could theoretically count. “Generally, faculty are trying to spread themselves out so students can take courses in different departments,” Burgmeier said.
Burgmeier feels the result will be a program that offers students opportunities to learn common knowledge and the kind of skills they’ll need once they reach the work force. “Cutting across disciplines will make students more versatile and offer them the kind of knowledge that is vital today, said Burgmeier. That’s why I’ve been involved in the first place and why I’ve wanted to see it through,”
For more information, go the GEC website. The new Gen Ed program is set to launch in Fall 2017.